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Seborrhoeic Keratosis
Health Guide
Seborrhoeic Keratoses and Seborrhoeic Warts
These lesions occur anywhere in the body and are defined as non-cancerous growths, are harmless and almost never become malignant. They can occur in any age group but people seem to build up a supply as they go on in life - that is, more of these growths appear as time goes on.

Seborrheic keratoses are non-cancerous growths of the outer layer of skin. There may be just one growth or clusters. They are usually brown but can vary in color from light tan all the way to black. They're different sizes as well - anywhere from a fraction of a centimeter to larger than a few centimeters in width.What Do They Look Like?
A main feature of seborrheic keratoses is their waxy, pasted-on or stuck-on look. They sometimes look like a dab of warm brown candle wax that has dropped onto the skin. These lesions start as small brown spots; over time these become raised. They appear wart-like and appear to have been stuck onto the skin. These lesions similar to moles and grow on the surface skin layer.

Are They Serious?
Everybody gets at least a few of these growths. Unless they develop suddenly they do not indicate a serious health problem. They're NOT related to skin cancer.

Cosmetically, they can pose a problem, especially if they begin to appear on the face. They are very annoying in certain locations e.g. bra strap line. Because they may grow larger over the years, removal is sometimes recommended - especially if they get irritated and bleed easily. A seborrheic keratosis may turn black and may be difficult to distinguish from a skin cancer. Sometimes such a growth must be removed and studied under a microscope to determine if it is cancerous or not.

Where do they appear?
Seborrheic keratoses are most often found on the chest or back. They're also found on the scalp, face, or neck or almost anywhere on the body. They're less common below the waist. Since they are not caused by sunlight they can be found on sun-exposed or covered areas.

If diagnosis is certain then no treatment is needed. However if diagnosis is uncertain or they are annoying they can be removed either by:

  • Cyrotherapy - freezing with liquid nitrogen. Blisters form under the lesion that dry into a scablike crust. The keratosis usually falls off within a few weeks. No mark is usually left, although occasionally there may be a small dark or light spot or a scar. These will fade over time.
  • Electrotherapy - The growth is first numbed, then burned - using an electric current - and then scraped off.
    or by cutting, scooping, electrocutting or burning.
  • Curettage - The growths are removed by "curetting" or scraping them from the surface of the skin. An injection or spray is first used to numb the area before the growth is removed. No stitches are necessary and bleeding is very limited. It can be controlled by applying pressure or by the application of a blood-clotting chemical.

What Makes SK Different
Warts - these are caused by virus, and tend to occur rapidly. Warts can also disappear, seborrhoeic keratoses do not.
Solar Keratosis - these are similar but are caused by sunlight.
Melanoma - this is a serious form of cancer and can grow dark and appear like seborrhoeic keratoses. For this reason any dark growths should be removed to prevent misdiagnosis of seborrhoeic keratoses for melanoma.

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